Here’s a festive salad for the holidays, and one that I think would be especially good paired with prime rib or roast beef. Blue cheese and celery is a classic combination and is especially good with the additions of dates (or dried cranberries) for sweetness and maple-glazed toasted hazelnuts. Yes, it’s a little fussy, but it’s the holidays! And so worth it. The recipe comes via my friend Peg’s glamorous friend Katie Sullivan (thank you Katie!).
To save time, start by roasting the hazelnuts. While they roast, you can prep all the other ingredients. Celery bunches come in different sizes, so the amounts here are a little inexact. Just make sure you have enough blue cheese so that you get a little with every bite of the celery.
- 6 ounces good quality blue cheese
- 3/4 cup hazelnuts
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp maple Syrup
- Pinch of cayenne
- 2-3 bunches of celery, tops removed
- 12-15 pitted dates (can sub with a handful of dried cranberries or cherries)
- 1/4 cup olive oil (or hazelnut oil if you happen to have it)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice (if using Meyer lemons, use 2 Tbsp)
- Freshly ground black pepper
1 Remove cheese from refrigerator to come to room temperature.
2 Place hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet in a 300°F oven for 30 minutes.
3 While the nuts are roasting, prepare the other ingredients. Use a vegetable peeler to peel away the tough outer strings of the stalks of celery. Slice the celery stalks on the diagonal into 1/4-inch thick slices. Slice the dates lengthwise first in half, then slice the halves lengthwise into 3 or four pieces. If the dates are on the large size, you may want to slice them in half widthwise first. You want to end up with pieces that are about an inch long and a 1/4 inch wide.
4 Once the hazelnuts have roasted for half an hour, remove them from the oven, let cool for a few minutes. Then rub the hazelnuts together inside of a clean dish towel to remove as much of the outer dark skin as you can.
5 Melt butter in a small skillet. Add a pinch of cayenne and salt. Add the roasted hazelnuts to the pan and toast them on medium low heat for a few minutes, continuously stirring. When the hazelnuts are hot, turn off the heat and add maple syrup to the pan. Stir to coat the hazelnuts in the maple syrup. Let glazed nuts sit in the pan to cool. Later you will scrape them loose with a wooden spoon and serve atop the salad.
6 Prepare the salad dressing. In a small jar, mix together the olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Shake to combine.
7 To assemble, layer a shallow platter or dish first with the sliced celery, then dates, then crumble the blue cheese over it and sprinkle with glazed hazelnuts. Right before serving, pour dressing over top.